Results in big games could define Milan’s season

Milan are not winning the Scudetto this season. That’s categorical but not out of place. Juventus continue to be favourites for the league title with an array of stars and the depth of their squad. And Napoli, despite a 3-0 defeat at Sampdoria before the international break, are a more talented and experienced side with a knowledgeable manager in Carlo Ancelotti.

However, it’s not beyond the realm of possibilities for the Rossoneri to end the season ahead of Roma, Inter and Lazio. A 2-1 win over the Giallorossi at the San Siro, proved that Milan are capable of putting the rest of the chasing pack to the sword.

In their win over Roma, the Rossoneri displayed characteristics of a group that never gives up until the final whistle. It paid off when Patrick Cutrone finished a brilliant pass from Gonzalo Higuain by the edge of the 18 yard box. Milan had been in control of large spells of the game, creating numerous goal scoring opportunities, even after taking the lead through Franck Kessie. Previous games show Gennaro Gattuso’s men have a habit of getting comfortable anytime they score. And it was evident in their first game against Napoli at the San Paolo. The players must have learnt from their collapse in the second half of that game.

Winning breeds confidence and there is a psychological value from putting one of your competitors to bed in a fierce contest. It gives you an edge in the subsequent game against the opponent that has just been conquered, and a feel good factor going into the following fixtures. The victory over AS Roma is a morale booster for the Diavolo as they warm themselves into the season.

Big teams are judged based on their performances in marquee games, hence Milan’s output in matches involving key contenders for a champions league spot could define their campaign this season. Lazio, one of the main candidates for a top four position have lost two of the most important games so far. One against Napoli at home in their first fixture and Juventus away in the second. Whiles Inter have managed four points from a possible nine.

Milan have a relatively kind schedule in their following five games before their next big meeting against International Milan at the San Siro on the 21st of October. The team will play Cagliari, Atalanta, Empoli, Sassuolo and Chievo Verona prior to that, and it will do a lot for their confidence if the Rossoneri win all five matches.

But these days matches involving Atalanta cannot be described as a low profile game, as Gian Piero Gasperini men continue to be a hard nut to crack. Despite losing some key players such as Franck Kessie and Roberto Gagliardini, the Bergamo side managed to bloody the noses of few big teams including Roma, Lazio and AC Milan last season. Atalanta took four points off Milan in the last campaign and will not be bullied by the departure of defensive stalwart Mattia Caldara and Midfielder Bryan Cristante, when they play Milan away at the Giuseppe Meazza on the 23rd of September.

The game against Inter in October promises a lot of goals as both teams have scored 16 times in their last five Serie A meetings. Among the two, Milan have proven to be the most prolific, finding the net on nine occasions whiles the Nerazzurri have managed seven. Their last encounter ended in a goalless draw. On paper, Inter appears a much stronger side with Radja Nainggolan in midfield, but Franck Kessie will relish another physical battle against the Belgian. It’s expected that Luciano Spalletti men will attack with a lot of crosses from the wings as has been their strength. Milan on the other hand, will try to work the ball through the defense of their opponent. It will also be an encounter that will answer who has the best attack with Gonzalo Higuain leading the line for Gattuso’s men.

Milan will play Lazio a week after hosting Juventus on November 11th. The last time the Diavolo recorded a victory over Juventus was two seasons ago when young Manuel Locatelli sent in a screamer into the left far corner. The Bianconeri’s superiority has always counted against the Rossoneri and its important Gattuso’ men keep a clean sheet when they meet at the San Siro.

AC Milan are far from the ideal team as there still exist some deficiencies in defence. The team struggles to deal with set pieces, weak in aerial duels and poor in defending against long shots. Milan were exposed when AS Roma rallied back to level the score through Federico Fazio in their last outing.

Despite losing the first game against Napoli, there seems to be an air of optimism surrounding the Rossoneri, but they need to improve on their big game results to have a successful season.

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